Thursday, December 7, 2017

It comes along so fast

I can't believe how often this comes around! At the time of my children being born (2003-2004) I decided I would do a double portrait of them every 4 years. Without fail as 'that' year arrives, I'm always shocked how quickly it has come; I shake my head in wonderment that time has passed so quickly since the last portrait.

I confess that I dread the process, but it's also one that I enjoy. A growing family and life can be a whirlwind. Stopping to paint my children somehow captures a moment of fatherly love; or to be more specific 'artist' fatherly love. For a portrait is not only the embodiment of the individual, but also the artists reflection or imprint of themselves on the subject. I don't know what my kids will make of these paintings many years from now, but perhaps they'll see not only themselves, but my reflection of them? It's everywhere within a painting, the artist makes all the calls, especially when he's your father! Wear this, stand there, smile like this, hold that book; the direction is endless, both when posing for a portrait, and in life. But the artists imprint is also visible within the more subtle choices of color, tone, lighting etc. Having said this, the fact that I chose to paint my children with more grays than usual, and amongst the trash cans, is not a conscious message. They are wonderful, good, bright, funny, and well behaved boys, and I love them dearly.

So why a painting every 4 years? Largely this time frame was chosen to demonstrate a noticeable change in them as they grew. Too many years and too much would have changed, too few and not enough. Four years, just felt like the right amount of balance. I was also aware that I needed a fixed date to work to, without that I know I would have put the work off for months or possibly years.
  4 years was also chosen in part because portraiture really is 'not my bag'! No, I'm not being modest, it really is a struggle. I feel great achievement, that each portrait has captured them, and captured them faithfully. But understand this, many the hour is spent meticulously measuring the dimensions of the nose, eyes, or mouth, only to repaint the feature countless times as I struggle to capture not only a recognizable face, but a distinctive expression. To a trained portrait artist this can be achieved in minutes or hours, for me it is an illusive hunt. Tentative stabs in the dark, hoping my luck will hold and I may eventually find my mark.  Of course with more practice I would become better and more proficient, but as yet I haven't had the inclination to do this, and so remains my furtive attempts every few years or so.

In addition to my choice of years, I also set out with the goal to paint each in a certain style. I.e. with each portrait I strive for a different aesthetic, almost as if a different artist has tackled each one. To a large degree I have failed at this; portrait 1 was an open book, so I simply painted it. Portrait 2, came the closest to the mandate. The arrangement was loosely based on a Joan Eardley painting that I greatly appreciated and there are some stylistic changes when compared to portrait 1. Portrait 3 however did not separate itself enough from the previous two. The problem I told myself was that it was enough of a struggle to capture a likeness. If I wanted to paint far looser with a much bigger brush, well then the details of a facial expression and likeness would be lost. This in part is and was an excuse, but I know there's also validity in it too. Though I yearn to paint each with distinction and variety, I'm unwilling to sacrifice too much for that prize. This years portrait (portrait 4), has reinforced this for me. Capturing them was less of a struggle than some previous years, but finding it's own 'style' was never resolved.  I had had a vague idea to paint them in a dramatic landscape, but the right time never arose. Additionally, one of my children (who shall remain nameless), was less than congenial about the task. Working from photographs, the moment of capture should be a matter of seconds however it never transpires like that. Ultimately I compromised and photographed them by the side of our home, nestled amongst trash cans & air conditioner units. My plan had been to place them in a background of my choosing, however ultimately I felt perhaps amongst the trash and chaos of this location was fitting to what had become a somewhat troubled painting. Perhaps I was just being lazy?


Portrait 1 -  2005
43.3X59    Oil
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Portrait 2 - 2009
48X28.5    Oil
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detail.

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detail

You can read about Portrait 2, if you follow this web link
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Portait 3 - 2013
48X34        Oil
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detail
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detail.

You can read about Portrait 3, if you follow this web link


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Portrait 4 -  2017

48X32        Oil
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I've been enjoying grays recently, and consciously wanted a painting with lots of those tones in it. Felt like a nice contrast to my usual dramatic color.

I know this painting is finished, and when dry we will hang it on our wall until a new one is created (4 years and counting), but it is far from my favorite. The interesting thing I find about the relationship of an artist and his painting, is that over time it can change. Portrait 2 for example at the time of it's creation I also disliked, but over time I learned to love it, and would even say I have come to miss it. Perhaps as time marches on I will come to love this one to a greater degree?
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detail.

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